Raiders' 53-man roster projection includes Div. III LB to reinforce defense

Nicholas Morrow could go from Greenville College to the active roster for the Raiders. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. Here's a final 53-man roster.

QUARTERBACKS (3): Derek Carr, Connor Cook, EJ Manuel

Carr is locked in for the season opener, so long as he controls his emotions early in games. Manuel and Cook, though, left much to be desired in the preseason with inaccuracy issues. Colin Kaepernick, anyone? I kid ... kinda.

RUNNING BACKS (3): Marshawn Lynch, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard

Seventh-round pick Elijah Hood seems destined to be on the practice squad after being on this list before training camp. So much of Oakland's offense rides on what Lynch brings, with Washington and Richard being the quintessential change-of-pace backs.

FULLBACK (1): Jamize Olawale

A blend of power and speed, Olawale tweaked a leg in the third preseason game at Dallas, so keep an eye on this spot. Because if Olawale is out for an extended time, perhaps John Crockett finds a roster spot.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton

Holton holds off the likes of K.J. Brent, Jaydon Mickens and Keon Hatcher for the fifth WR spot with his sterling special-teams play, especially as a gunner.

TIGHT END (3): Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford

With an asterisk, though. If Smith, who's coming back from a broken ankle and was dinged up in the preseason, is not fully back, Gabe Holmes, a favorite of the front office, might be able to grab a roster spot.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, Marshall Newhouse, Denver Kirkland, Jon Feliciano, Vadal Alexander, David Sharpe

Keep an asterisk handy because Kirkland, who suffered a leg injury in the preseason opener at Arizona, could be sent to injured reserve after the initial 53-man roster is announced, leaving a spot for seventh-round rookie Jylan Ware. Plus, Ian Silberman had an impressive camp. Might the Raiders go with 10 O-linemen?

DEFENSIVE LINE (8): Khalil Mack, Treyvon Hester, Justin Ellis, Mario Edwards Jr., Denico Autry, Darius Latham, Jihad Ward, Eddie Vanderdoes

No changes here from my pre-camp projection, though with Latham not flashing much in the preseason, might he be in peril should the Raiders only go with seven D-linemen due to needing a roster spot elsewhere?

LINEBACKER (8): Bruce Irvin, Tyrell Adams, Jelani Jenkins, Cory James, James Cowser, Shilique Calhoun, Marquel Lee, Nicholas Morrow

The Raiders need help at middle linebacker -- Perry Riley Jr., anyone? -- with Lee, a fifth-round draft pick, and Adams the lone pure MLBs on the roster. Morrow, meanwhile, is the feel-good story so far, as the undrafted Division III rookie has stepped up big in preseason games. Ben Heeney, who started at middle linebacker last season, is still on the non-football injury list and, yes, Aldon Smith is still suspended but under contract.

CORNERBACK (6): David Amerson, Sean Smith, Gareon Conley, TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald, Antonio Hamilton

The Raiders need some help in the secondary, so let's bulk up on depth with six corners. Conley, the team’s first-round draft pick, missed all of training camp with a shin injury and just started practicing this week. Amerson suffered a concussion in the third preseason game and Smith faces assault and battery charges. Undrafted free agent Breon Borders was an early-camp standout but faded late.

SAFETY (4): Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, Obi Melifonwu, Shalom Luani

A change here in that I needed an extra roster space for a cornerback. Keith McGill is the odd DB out, as he has been sidelined since the second week of training camp with a foot injury. Melifonwu, though, is having a hard time staying healthy enough to get on the field himself. Keep an eye on Anthony Cioffi, just in case.

SPECIALISTS (3): Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, punter Marquette King, long-snapper Jon Condo

The team's all-time leading scorer, its most entertaining follow on social media and a former Pro Bowler. No more questions.